What Is PlayStation 2?

The Playstation 2 console released in 2000, but it's still popular

PlayStation 2 game console

Sony’s PlayStation 2 was released in 2000, but it’s still one of the most popular and beloved game consoles today. For many, it was the best game console ever made. So, what makes the PS2 so special?

How the PS2 Got Its Start

The PS2 began life in a critical time in the video game industry. Its predecessor, the PlayStation, had been the first major console to use CDs for its games and competed against the cartridge-based Nintendo 64. By the time of the PS2, DVDs had become much more commonplace, and processing power had made substantial leaps in performance, paving the way for larger games with much more visually appealing graphics.

The PS2 arrived in late 2000, several months after Sega’s Dreamcast, the first console of its generation. Between the PlayStation name and the added functionality of a DVD player, the console took off like a rocket, quickly dominating Sega and playing a role in the end of the Dreamcast’s short run.

PlayStation 2 original and slim consoles

The PlayStation 2 was the first multimedia game console, and the DVD player was a major selling point, even for people who weren’t big on video games. The PS2 also had the distinct advantage of backwards compatibility with the previous PlayStation games, meaning even in the early months of the console’s life, there was something to play.

The fall of the Dreamcast left the PS2 completely unopposed until the release of Nintendo’s GameCube and Microsoft’s Xbox nearly six months later. That head start helped establish the PS2 in thousands of households and build an extensive library of games.

PlayStation 2 Technical Details

By today’s standards, the PS2’s technical specs are laughable, but in 2000, it was nothing short of impressive.

Both the PlayStation and the Nintendo 64 offered 3D graphics, but they were fairly simplistic. Models had low polygon counts, and everything looked rough and more representative than realistic.

DVD disks
 Pixabay

The PS2 was the first console to truly enable 3D graphics to shine. It opened up countless new possibilities to game designers and developers, and it did so before any of the other consoles of its generation. This formula made it the perfect breeding ground for new game series and innovative design.

The PS2’s DVD drive was a huge selling point early on, but it also allowed games to be bigger than ever before. Previously, large games had to span multiple disks, and the result was clunky at best.

The PS2 was also designed with online gameplay in mind. However, when it launched online gaming was still in its infancy, and plenty of households didn’t have an Internet connection capable of online gaming. As a result, Sony turned their attention elsewhere, until the Xbox proved online console gaming could be popular.

What Makes the PS2 Special?

There were a number of factors that came together to form the perfect set of circumstances and make the PS2 a legend. First was the timing; the PS2 hit at exactly the right time with the exact features people wanted. For many people, a PS2 was their first DVD player, making it the central piece of the entertainment center for plenty of families.

PlayStation 2 main menu screen

Backward compatibility was also a big deal for the PS2. Neither the Xbox or the GameCube had the benefit of a previous console’s game library, but the PS2 was able to build on the PlayStation’s success. For some people, especially PlayStation owners, this made it the clear choice.

The PS2’s DualShock controller is also considered one of the best controller designs ever. It’s simple, and it just feels right in the hand. In contrast, the GameCube’s controller was a little strange, and the Xbox’s original controller was downright hard to hold. It’s no wonder why Sony hasn’t changed their design much for the PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 4.

Games, Games, Games

The most important factor in the PS2’s success is simple: the games. The PlayStation 2 was the birthplace of more popular game series than just about any other console. The PS2 also played host to massively popular series like Final Fantasy and Grand Theft Auto.

PlayStation 2 games in the PlayStation Store
 Sony

Of course, the PS2 was more than just the well established favorites. There were hundreds of lesser known titles that were simply fantastic as well. Innovative titles across a wide range of genres meant there was something for everyone.

If that doesn’t sound too different from today’s consoles, consider that the PS2 played host to thousands of games over its lengthy 13-year lifespan. Both of those figures are absolutely unmatched since.

Can You Still Get a PlayStation 2?

Production of the PS2 stopped in 2013, but there are literally millions of consoles still out in the world. It wouldn’t be too hard to find a PS2 for sale at a reasonable price.

Marvel vs. Capcom 2 on the PCSX2 Emulator

That said, you can also emulate the PS2 on your computer. The open source emulator, PCSX2, will play most popular PS2 games on your PC. Since the PS2’s games were on DVDs, you can read most of them on a regular PC DVD drive too.

Whether you’re craving the nostalgia of the PlayStation 2’s heyday or you’re looking to peek back at an era of gaming history, you can still experience some of what made the PS2 one of the greatest consoles ever made.